ALMOST a third of drug dealers who qualified for the mandatory 10-year sentence avoided jail terms in Cork in the past two years.
Figures released by the Courts Service under the Freedom of Information Act, to the Evening Echo, showed there were 24 cases brought before Cork Circuit Court under Section 15 (A) of the Misuse of Drugs Act, in 2015 and 2016.
The legislation refers to the sale or supply of drugs worth more than €13,000 and carries a mandatory sentence of 10 years. However, this can be reduced if there are mitigating circumstances.
Seven of those before the court received fully suspended sentences, with conditions. There were two cases in the first quarter of 2015 where offenders were given six years imprisonment but the full term of imprisonment was suspended in both cases.
The figures also showed that just two of those convicted were given the mandatory 10 year sentence. Two others were also given 10 years each but one had 18 months suspended, while the other had two years suspended.
The mother of a man who died from a heroin overdose in Cork city has slammed the lenient approach taken in such cases.
Mary Gallagher, whose son Tony Stauton died on December 14, 2006, following an overdose, said that drug dealers cause as much heartache and pain to families as murderers.
“Drugs destroyed our lives for six or seven years before Tony died and for the 10 years since his death. God only knows how many other families have had their lives destroyed like us.”
Meanwhile, Cork South Central Fianna Fáil TD, Michael McGrath, is now urging the judiciary to take a firmer approach to sentencing those convicted under the legislation.
Deputy McGrath said: “It is clear from the data from the Courts in Cork and elsewhere that the judiciary do not like efforts by the Oireachtas to remove or limit the discretion of the judge when it comes to sentencing. However, given the devastating damage that drugs are causing in communities right throughout the country, I really believe the justice system needs to take a firmer line on those convicted of being involved in this evil trade and the legislation on mandatory sentencing in this area may well now have to be strengthened.”